Go VoIP to Save Cash When Mobile

Here's a good way to blow some cash: head for the Caribbean and make a couple of calls on your cell phone. On a recent trip there for a couple of weeks, my carrier (Virgin Mobile) cheerily informed me by SMS that making calls would cost £1.50 ($2.19) per minute. If that wasn't shocking enough enough, it also promised to fleece me a further $0.80 ($1.17) per minute for every call I received. Nice.

Cue some hasty math. Banking on making at least two hours worth of calls to work colleagues -- not to mention friends and family -- and receiving a similar amount of calls, it was clear Virgin would soon be relieving me of well over $350 in call charges. That's a lot of cash for a few phone calls.

But when you multiply that sum by the number of employees a typical enterprise might have traveling overseas at any one time, the numbers get pretty big pretty quickly. The good news is that these charges can be avoided: businesses could save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each month by taking advantage of VoIP telephony to avoid exorbitant roaming charges.

OK, so VoIP isn't new, and Skype and standard SIP-based services have been around for years. The enterprise market for VoIP office phones is growing rapidly, with sales up 25 percent in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the previous year, according to research firm Infonetics. But what's changed comparatively recently is how you can make Wi-Fi-based (as opposed to office LAN-based) VoIP calls.

The last time I was overseas and unable to make sensibly priced calls from my smartpphone the alternative was to talk into a headset connected to a laptop running Skype. The other involved using a Palm TX running a SIP VoIP application called Articulation jerry-rigged with a microphone bought off eBay and the headphones from an iPod. (I suppose I could have used Skype on my Nokia N800 Internet tablet too, but the Palm is much lighter to carry around.)

But recently smartphones with built in Wi-Fi capabilities have become increasingly commonplace—perhaps most notably the iPhone but also popular devices such as versions of Research In Motion's Blackberry, Nokia E and N series handsets, and various Windows Mobile devices.

Why is this important? As an individual on a tight budget it might be worth cracking out the old Palm TX to make cheap phone calls, but the reality is that it's not something busy travelling executives are ever going to do. Time is money, the mobile phone is the primary means of communication, and the handset's address book is the most convenient directory. Enterprise use of VoIP while traveling has to be on the smartphone -- or not at all. And that means that built-in Wi-Fi is a must-have feature.


wireless, Wi-Fi, VoIP, SIP, Calling
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